MACo’s County Innovation Award was established to recognize superb and leading-edge county programs that improve overall quality of life and service delivery for a county’s residents.
The Honorable Ingrid Turner, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Associate Judge, MACo Past President, and former Prince George’s County Council Member instituted this award during her term as MACo President in 2012. The award is now a collaboration of the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance and MACo, with support from the Local Government Insurance Trust.
35 county programs were nominated for the 2020 County Innovation Award, which is issued to an urban county and a rural county each year. All were impressive, addressing issues in their communities and serving the needs of residents in ways that were truly “outside the box.” Many of the nominated programs specifically addressed COVID-related concerns, offering new services and programs to help overcome previously unforeseen issues.
“It was truly inspirational and heart-warming to see how our county programs responded to the increased needs of the pandemic,” noted MACo President, Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood. “From virtual summer camps to N-95 mask decontamination systems, our counties delivered. Because that’s what we do. I’m proud of our members – congratulations to our 2020 nominees and award winners and thank you for all you do.”
MACo and the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance are pleased to announce our two award winners and share information on all nominees, as listed below. Award winners will be invited to speak about their programs during the 2021 MACo Summer Conference.
Rural – Charles County Climate Change Preparedness Program
Charles County Government (CCG) has undertaken a series of actions with a team of partners and at no direct cost to county citizens that collectively act as a “best practice” example for local governments state-wide. CCG has identified the impacts of climate change within its geographic boundaries, is building unprecedented competency for climate-smart decision-making among its workforce, reorganized to most efficiently address the problem, identified and proactively took action to reduce carbon emissions while lowering fixed expenses and attracting outside investment, and is providing a leading voice for local government in the state-wide climate change discussion.
Urban – Anne Arundel County Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice
The Anne Arundel County Department of Health established the Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice in April 2020. It’s mission is to advocate, educate and implement health equity and racial justice initiatives in Anne Arundel County. It drives the work of addressing racism as a public health issue, a declaration made by the county in November 2019. The Office collects, analyzes and reports disaggregated data to identify racial/ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic disparities in health measures. It works by collaborating with affected communities, governmental agencies, and organizations to identify problems and collaborate on solutions.
Carroll County Pandemic Business Assistance Grant Programs
Without any county budget impact, Carroll County almost immediately reacted to March COVID-19 restrictions and closures by initiating a small business emergency grant. Other grant programs were added to aid county farms, businesses, sole proprietors, nonprofits, and volunteer fire service organizations. Carroll, one of the first in the state to relieve the financial burdens of local organizations, devised customized, personal and one-to-one outreach to assist businesses, greatly reducing the number of business casualties. Continuous outreach resulted in distribution of grants totaling more than $8.2M in local, state, and federal funding. Carroll’s personal and ongoing pandemic responses are testament to Carroll’s innovative spirit, shared connectedness, and community dedication.
Garrett County Broadband Service Information Portal
Broadband internet is available to approximately 75% of County occupied addresses. To better understand where gaps in service remain, Garrett County created an easy-to use online portal to accept input on where internet service may be lacking or unavailable.This website-based survey will allow prospective and current customers the opportunity to provide feedback based on two different options:- Report a site with no service- Test current serviceOnce service level information is gathered, efforts to expand broadband service can be focused on areas with the most need.
Garrett County Planning Tool
The Garrett County Planning Tool found at MyGarrettCounty.com is a digital community engagement framework built by the Garrett County Health Department to increase connectivity & representation in planning processes through community engagement, and collection of hyper local data points reported by multisector partners. It serves both community members and agency stakeholders in a transparent space where accurate and timely data drive an actionable community vision that’s responsive to the needs of its people in a living Community Health Improvement Plan.
Washington County Service Availability Notification
On behalf of Washington County Government, we would like to nominate the Service Availability Notification system for the County Innovation Award.The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department used their creativity to implement two notification systems, using the same tool, to meet the needs of two different departments within the local government. The team customized tools that already existed within ESRI software to find a creative solution that led to the implementation of real-time updates for Marty Snook Pool and the Board of Elections. These notification systems allowed citizens to check pool capacity and wait times for lines during election day with real-time updates on the Washington County Government homepage. No new software was purchased and there was no additional cost to the County for the creation of these systems.
URBAN COUNTY NOMINEES
Anne Arundel County COVID-19 Care Coordination Team
The COVID-19 Care Coordination Team was initiated to address the increasing needs of Anne Arundel County residents who are impacted by a diagnosis of COVID-19. Led by the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities, in partnership with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and the Partnership for Children,Youth, and Families, case coordination services are available to individuals and families who are experiencing hardships due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. The COVID-19 Care Coordination Team provides a rapid response to communities having a higher prevalence of positivity, connecting families with immediate resources, so they may effectively quarantine. Case managers connect people to healthcare, food, and other community resources to support the individual and/or family while the COVID-19 diagnosis limits their ability to work and/or access community services and resources. The case management team consists of a registered nurse and a bi-lingual case manager to ensure access of the service to community members where english is not their first language.
Anne Arundel County’s General Development Plan: Plan 2040 Community Engagement@Home Online Open House Web App
Office of Planning and Zoning staff planned nine in-person open house meetings in August 2020 to allow stakeholder input on the draft planned land use map and the draft goals, policies, and strategies developed for Plan 2040. To continue the public engagement process during the pandemic, staff from Long Range Planning and Research/GIS developed a robust web app using ArcGIS StoryMaps technology with online survey tools. Through this platform, draft plan information was available and accessible to all County stakeholders for review and comment. Plan 2040 Community Engagement@Home was open from August 5-September 10, 2020, and received over 4,700 visitors.
Anne Arundel County Public County Virtual Programs and Services
Anne Arundel County Public Library transformed programs and services to meet the needs of the community virtually during the 2020 COVID pandemic. We added daily English and Spanish Facebook Live storytimes, Chromebooks and hotspots for checkout, wifi service from the parking lots, curbside pickup of materials and printing, and a website chat feature to provide instant answers to customer questions. We also transitioned to fewer print copies of books, added increased holdings of digital materials and eliminated the expiration on our virtual cards so customers could apply online and access databases and materials without visiting a library location in person.
Anne Arundel County Mobile Integrated Community Health Program (MICH)
The Mobile Integrated Community Health Program is an initiative established to identify individuals who frequently utilize 9-1-1 for non-life-threatening or medical reasons, and to assist in linking them with community resources and unexplored medical/social programs that will appropriately meet their needs. Many of these patients have been unable to access community based resources for a variety of reasons. The MICHP team consists of (2) representatives from the Department of Aging and Disabilities (DOAD), and one representative from the Fire Department. The Anne Arundel County Mobile Integrated Community Health Initiative is an example of the value that can be achieved for the citizens of local government through inter-agency cooperation and public / private sector partnerships.
Anne Arundel County Juvenile/Victim Assistance Unit
The Anne Arundel County Police Department is committed to the development and perpetuation of programs designed to prevent and control juvenile delinquency. While the Department’s juvenile operations delinquency prevention efforts are not limited to the activities of specialized components, the Community Relations Division-under the command of Captain Frederick Plitt-houses several highly-praised, juvenile focused initiatives. The Juvenile & Victim Assistance Unit is a critical part of this mission. Under the leadership of Director Ms. Timmeka Perkins we are making progress and providing many types of services to the youth in Anne Arundel County.
Baltimore City BMORE Summer Fun
BCRP summer camps are an essential service provided to Baltimore City youth & their families. Thousands of youth participate each summer. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, BCRP did not desire to eliminate this experience from youth/families. BMORE Summer Fun, a modified six-week summer camp experience was provided from July 6, 2020 until August 14, 2020 at 20 BCRP green-spaces citywide. BMORE Summer Fun operated Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM-3:30 PM. BMORE Summer Fun afforded 750+ youth (5 to 12 years of age) an opportunity to participate in outdoor activities (i.e., sports, arts & crafts, exploratory nature play, STEM activities, etc.).
Baltimore City Student Learning Centers
Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) and the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks (BCRP) have partnered to provide in-person access to virtual learning lessons at 15 locations in schools and city recreation centers, serving a total of 950 students. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Student Learning Centers (SLCSs) provide learning access for some of the highest-need young people in Baltimore City in grades K-5. From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, students participate in virtual learning in small groups led by a distance-learning proctor. Additionally, students take part in recreational activities designed to move their minds and bodies.
Baltimore City COVID-19 Emergency Food Strategy
Baltimore City launched the COVID-19 Emergency Food Strategy to fill an immediate food gap for children and families and quickly scaled up to meet a fast-growing, citywide need for food as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The effort spans dozens of city agency and community partners and strives to create, in an already food-insecure city with high concentrations of poverty and residents excluded from mainstream systems of support, a community- and data-driven emergency food system where no one goes hungry during the pandemic-while retaining dignity, agency and choice for all residents.
Baltimore City “Healing City Baltimore”
Healing City Baltimore is a sustained movement of neighbors, united as a citywide community, to engage in honest dialogue, learn from diverse perspectives, embrace our differences and commit to healing from trauma as a foundation to collectively pursuing a racially, socially and economically just and thriving Baltimore for all. Healing City Baltimore is built on the foundation of the signing of the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act, which was coordinated out of Councilman Zeke Cohen’s office by Ann Coy and involved a robust Steering Committee of 45 individuals.
Baltimore City YH20 Career Mentoring Program
The YH20 Career Mentoring Program is a public-private partnership career mentoring program that prepares Baltimore youth for job opportunities, leading to a career path in the DPW and in private industry. The program is led by DPW and its partners from the MOED and CWEA. Established in 2015, YH20 meets the need for an interested and younger workforce for the water industry as seasoned workers left or retired. The program has since been expanded to other areas of need in Public Works including the Bureau of Solid Waste and in IT. To date, 96 young Baltimore City men and women have completed the program and gone on to work full time jobs.
Baltimore City HR COVID Task Force Program
Baltimore County Government established the HR Covid Task Force Program (HRCTF) in the beginning of 2020. The HR Covid Task Force (HRCTF) is responsible for creating and deploying expertise and human resources essentials which includes fostering employee personnel and residential support, recruitment of critical hires, ensuring compliance with legal and confidential matters, weekly operational briefings and implementing new safety measures during the unfortunate events of the coronavirus pandemic.
Frederick County Development of UV Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) Decon System for N-95 Masks
At the beginning of the United States COVID 19 virus outbreak, the potential for severe N-95 Filtering Face piece Respirator (FFR) shortages for healthcare workers was a real concern. Frederick County’s Division of Water and Sewer Utilities developed two (2) Ultraviolet Light Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) N-95 FFR decontamination units for the Frederick Health Hospital, for emergency decontamination of N-95 FFR masks. The decontamination devices, colloquially referred to as the “Toasters”, provided emergency FFR mask decontamination systems for health care workers at Frederick Health Hospital, allowing the individual reuse of N-95 FFR by health care staff during N-95 FFR mask shortages.
Frederick County Jump Start Business Grants
Between May 2020 to December, seven months, Frederick County Government awarded $9,329,070 in Jump Start Business Grants to support our resilient local businesses during the COVID pandemic and economic downturn. Offering 1,694 businesses funding to stay open, keep their workforce and afford solutions to pandemic safety prodigal. Targeted marketing offered many of these grants to women, minority and veteran owned businesses. $4,965,400 was awarded to Fulltime Farmers and Small and Micro Businesses. $2,049,025 was awarded to Family and Center Based Childcare Providers. $2,052,745 in State Rainy Day Funds were awarded to Restaurants and Food Service Relief. Lastly, $261,900 for outdoor dining grants.
Harford County NEXT GEN Responder Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program
To recruit and retain lifesaving volunteers, Harford County is offering up to $5,000 per year, for up to four years, to help volunteer fire & EMS providers repay their student loans. Harford County relies entirely on volunteers for its fire service, and has a combination of volunteer and paid EMS providers operating in 12 volunteer fire companies countywide. As it has become more difficult to attract volunteers, County Executive Barry Glassman, a former EMT with the Level Volunteer Fire Company, created this program to strengthen public safety. It is believed to be the first of its kind in Maryland.
Howard County Camp Came to Me Kits
During summer 2020, Howard County Recreation & Park’s Robinson Nature Center found a different way to provide camps to children in our community whose families chose not to send their children to in-person programs due to pandemic concerns. The Center called the experiences “Camp Came to Me” programs. Staff purchased/organized all the materials needed to complete camp activities into a “take-home” kit that parents retrieved from the Nature Center. Staff also filmed short, instructional videos that were emailed to parents along with an optional camp schedule. Over 135 families created fun, no-stress, at-home camp experiences for their kids through the programs.
Howard County Online Therapeutic Recreation Programs
The community has faced innumerable challenges as a result of the pandemic. Individuals with developmental disabilities were no exception, as they experienced an increase in isolation and community disconnection. The Office of Therapeutic Recreation & Accommodation Services re-tooled their programs and services to address this isolation, lack of social connection, and the resulting depression many in this demographic are experiencing. The Therapeutic Recreation team transitioned from in-person programs to successful virtual experiences.
Howard County RecZone
This child care program, offered 5-days a week from 7am-6pm, allows elementary school children an opportunity to engage in a variety of crafts, activities and active games, in addition to having qualified recreational licensed child care staff assist in the facilitation of virtual learning and work sessions for school requirements. This balance allows children to engage in socialization with peers in a safe environment while completing synchronous and asynchronous assignments.
Howard County Emergency Childcare Program
On March 13, 2020 schools closed due to COVID 19. Immediately there was a concern about emergency workers (fire, police, hospital workers etc.) being able to report to work with their children now at home. This is when the Emergency Child Care team was formed! This amazing collaborative effort of the two HCRP Bureaus created a daily program from 6:30am-6pm, five days a week at the Robinson Nature Center.
Montgomery County Development of a Pipe Culvert Asset Management Program
Proactive or reactive. This is the age-old dilemma that faces County officials when dealing with their transportation facility maintenance. Decades of development and urban sprawl have led to the construction of thousands of pipe culverts throughout Maryland to convey stormwater. Failure to properly maintain these culverts can lead to their collapse, sinkholes, and the emergency closure of roadways – all of which affect public safety. Montgomery County successfully implemented a pipe culvert asset management program to identify, assess, and develop a rehabilitation plan for the hundreds of unknown pipe culverts in the County and moved from being reactive to proactive.
Montgomery County Racial Equity and Social Justice Law
In the fall of 2019, Montgomery County, under the leadership of Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro launched a groundbreaking program aimed at advancing fair and equitable outcomes for individuals and communities of color in government decision making across all County-funded agencies. The genesis of this effort was the passage of a resolution in April 2018 that was spearheaded by Councilmember Nancy Navarro affirming the Montgomery County Council’s commitment to creating a Racial Equity and Social Justice law. Over 1,000 residents participated in these County sponsored community conversations along with civic associations, nonprofits, and various community groups.
Montgomery County COVID-19 Response Management System
The COVID-19 Response Management System is a collection of cutting-edge, low-cost, in-house software programs and systems, many of which were developed by the Office of Human Resources (OHR) IT Team in partnership with other OHR divisions and the Office of Management and Budget’s CountyStat. This initiative transformed a variety of new and ongoing mission critical OHR operations into a digital space, ensuring business continuity and fast, efficient service delivery throughout the pandemic response. The team used their technical expertise to directly support COVID-19 information collection, analysis, and sharing, allowing rapid implementation of critical OHR and COVID-19 processes to County employees.
Montgomery County “The 3R Initiative”
These unprecedented times require impactful, creative, and innovative strategies, especially for the devastated restaurant and retail industries. The 3R Initiative is a unique public-private partnership to boldly reimagine long-lasting solutions to help these hard-hit sectors reopen and recover. The 3R Initiative is a $1.5 million public-private program that will impact the future of some of Montgomery County’s most dynamic retail corridors, especially in underserved communities. This community-based project provides financial support, e-commerce solutions, and technical assistance to support the survival of restaurants, retailers, makers, and artisans during the pandemic, especially in the crucial holiday season and the critical winter months.
Montgomery County Website – Mental Health Resources for Public Safety Employees
This program led to the creation of a website (https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/PSMH) that displays the mental health programs and services to which all public safety employees (i.e., Department of Police, Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Sheriff’s Office, Department of Correction and Rehabilitation) in Montgomery County have access. This centralized repository of information may be conveniently viewed by an employee when experiencing a mental health crisis or during a time of need, and can facilitate engagement with a professional who can provide assistance, and has already received over 900 unique views.
Montgomery County “The Bethesda Downtown Plan’s Bethesda Overlay Zone”
Created by and for the Montgomery County community, the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan is built on sustainability and provides a unique implementation tool: the Bethesda Overlay Zone, to ensure that its housing, parks, design excellence and environmental goals are achieved. Instead of distributing density through zoning allocations, density is allocated through a regulatory process directly responsive to the major goals of the plan. Projects receiving additional density must provide more affordable housing, follow a formal design review process to ensure design excellence and pay into funds for future park acquisition and development.
Prince George’s County Virtual Construction Inspection Program
When the pandemic closed the agency in March 2020, in-person construction inspections of occupied spaces were halted to protect both agency staff and customers. Agency leaders developed and implemented a virtual construction inspection program where permit holders of occupied space were able to electronically share videos and photos of areas for inspection with agency inspectors. This program serves the entire county and specifically homeowners and small business owners who are occupying the space under construction, but desperately need final inspection to proceed to occupy and utilize the improved space. This timely virtual inspection program is valuable because it serves the needs of homeowners and business owners during the pandemic while keeping both agency staff and customers safe.